Feds used confidential informant, surveillance to build trafficking case
ASPEN – Federal agents relied on a confidential informant and covert recordings as part of an investigation they say broke up a major cocaine network from Los Angeles to Aspen, while a traffic stop in July in Garfield County led to the seizure of a “large sum of cash” from the suspected ringleader.
Documents filed in the U.S. District Court in Denver, as well as Garfield and Pitkin county courts, help weave together those and other details that led up to a federal grand jury’s nine-count indictment issued April 19.
A discovery order entered Wednesday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Marcia Krieger, who is presiding over the case of six Aspen-area residents who were arrested May 19 on cocaine trafficking charges, shows that the probe used a “confidential informant who was a participant in or a witness to the crime charged …”
The order notes that the person could be called as a witness at trial, but the government “will claim privilege of nondisclosure of the identity of the confidential informant.”
The order also says that the government used such methods as telephone tape recordings, electronic surveillance of the suspects, and photographic evidence to build its case.
When U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officials, with aid from outside agencies, made last week’s arrests in Pitkin County, they seized approximately $116,000 in cash, half a kilogram of cocaine and several pounds of marijuana, said Special Agent Jim Schrant of Grand Junction, in an interview with The Aspen Times earlier this week. All told, the DEA says it seized $175,000 between the arrests in Aspen and in Los Angeles, where three suspects were also detained. One California suspect remains at large.
Schrant said the grand jury convened after an April 8 traffic arrest of Wayne Alan Reid, 65, of Aspen. Federal officials have referred to Reid as the ringleader of the network that is alleged to have imported more than 200 kilograms of cocaine from Los Angeles to Aspen over the last 15 years.
The April 8 arrest of Reid was the latest in a string of traffic incidents involving the longtime Aspen resident. Reid was arrested for driving under the influence in Aspen in October 1991, and had other problems behind the wheel such as traffic arrests for driving under suspension. But it was a July 13 stop in Garfield County, nearly Rifle, that drew the attention of drug-enforcement officials, who won’t discuss the case.
“We’re not going to comment on any of his previous cases,” Schrant said, when asked about Reid’s previous run-ins with the law.
That day, Reid was pulled over after the Toyota Highlander he was driving went 80-81 mph in a 75-mph zone, near mile marker 90 on Interstate 70, according to a warrantless arrest affidavit filed by Corp. Brent Baker of the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office.
Officers, learning that Reid’s driver’s license had been stripped in 2007 by the Colorado Department of Revenue following a November 2007 DUI charge in Aspen, arrested Reid for driving with a revoked license, changing lanes while unsafe and speeding.
When officers conducted an “inventory of the vehicle per Garfield County Sheriff’s Office policy, a large sum of cash was found and turned over to TRIDENT officers,” the affidavit says.
TRIDENT stands for Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team, a group of law enforcement agencies from Vail to Carbondale that partnered with the DEA in its investigation into Reid. The Aspen Police Department and Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office were not contacted about the federal investigation, and weren’t notified about last week’s arrests until they were under way.
It’s unclear how much cash was seized from the July arrest or what its current status is. Reid hired Denver attorney Abraham Hutt to help on the matter. Hutt did not return a telephone message Friday seeking comment.
Reid’s driving continued to attract the attention of law enforcement, and on April 8 he was flagged by Mesa County deputies for going 80 in a 75-mph zone on I-70 near the Utah border.
After he was stopped, deputies noticed that his driver’s license had a special provision that he could only drive with a breath-alcohol interlock device, which the rental car he was driving did not have. Reid was required to have an interlock device, which starts the ignition only if the driver is sober, after being arrested for driving under the influence in Aspen in November 2007.
Reid, according to the affidavit, “appeared extremely nervous” when deputies questioned him. He was then booked for failing to drive without an interlock device. Deputies later arranged to have the vehicle towed to the nearest Avis car rental business; in the meantime, the deputies’ inventory search of the vehicle yielded a brick of cocaine weighing more than 1 kilogram, the affidavit says.
Reid, who posted $50,000 bond in that case, failed to appear for an April 14 filing of charges in Mesa County District Court, resulting in a warrant for his arrest issued May 24, according to court documents. Reid’s attorney in the Mesa County case, Daniel Shaffer of Grand Junction, did not return telephone messages.
Reid has pleaded not guilty to the federal charges, and is being held in U.S. custody in Denver without bond.
The other local defendants, Aspen residents Joan Anastasi, 67; Jack Fellner, 61; and Peggy Schlauger, 41; along with Aspen Village resident Joseph James Burke, 63, also have pleaded not guilty. They are free on $20,000 bonds. The sixth local suspect, Christopher Sheehan, 65, of Snowmass, was arrested at a Dallas Fort Worth International Airport on May 19.
The grand jury also indicted Valentin Barrios, 42; Anthony Buchanan, 67; Alfonso Elvao-Allocati, 70; and Jesse Trujillo, 33, all of Los Angeles. Trujillo remains at large as of Monday and is considered a fugitive by authorities.
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